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KEY WEST ATTRACTIONS
Key West has a laid-back atmosphere
and the folks here are very tolerant. No wonder so many writers, artists, musicians and gays
call this place home. But as prices get higher and higher, and Key West gets more and more commercialized
(thereís now a Banana Republic and Coach store), the locals are slowly beginning to flee. Therefore, if I were you, I would hurry up and come down here before it loses its charm and personality. Donít get me wrong: there are still plenty of mom and pop shops, art galleries, an eclectic range of bars, restaurants, ice cream parlors, Key Lime pie
and museums. And there
will always be plenty
and do. For starters
walk down Duval Street, which I probably donít need to tell you about, since itís the heart and soul of Key West. Its look and feel reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, including the Go Cups and stores selling party beads.
Sharon Wells (305-294-0566, email@example.com) is a Key West historian, has lived here for 31 years and offers a variety of private Key West tours. She toured me around some of the local museums, which was a great introduction to the island. Her two-hour tour costs $40 per person and a minimum of four people are required.
MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY
Next door to the Westin is The Custom House which is home to the Key West Museum of Art & History. It was built in 1891 with over 900,000 bricks. It has served as a custom house, post office and courthouse. It was in this building that the U.S. decided to go to war with Spain in 1898 after the sinking of the battleship USS Maine. It recently underwent a 9-year, $9 million restoration, turning this big red brick building into a museum. It devotes an entire section to Ernest Hemingway's life in Key West, including his bloodstained WWI uniform and rotating art exhibits. Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children (children under 6 are free), $9 for seniors (62+), AAA travelers, and locals with ID. The Key West Museum of Art & History in the Custom House, 281 Front Street, Key West, Florida; Tel.: 305-295-6616.
HERITAGE HOUSE MUSEUM
The Heritage House Museum is in a Caribbean colonial-style home with original furnishings
belonging to the Porters, a notable Key West family. They collected antiques and sea-faring artifacts which are all on display. The tour ends in a romantic flowering garden where the Robert Frost cottage is located and recordings of his poetry can be heard. They also host poetry festivals, writers' workshops, lectures and cultural events. Hours: 10am to 4pm daily (closed Sunday). Heritage House, 410 Caroline St., tel. 305-296-3573. $7 guided tour, $5 self-guided.
One of the most popular attractions in Key West is the Ernest Hemingway home
and museum. Ernest Hemingway lived in this Spanish colonial-style home here in the heart of Old Town for more than 10 years. The place is usually packed
with tourists (and more than 60 cats!) and the best time to tour is as soon as they open, before the cruise ship passengers invade the place. They have free, 30-minute tours
through his old rooms
and gardens showing you so much, including a 1934 penny that Hemingway pushed into the wet cement where his pool was being built and announced jokingly, "Here, take the last penny I've got!" because it cost $20,000 to build. Open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission
is $11. Hemingway Home, 907 Whitehead St.; tel. 305-294-1575.
KEY WEST LIGHTHOUSE
Across the street from Hemingwayís house is the Key West Lighthouse
and Keeper's Quarters Museum. Built in 1847, the tower is 86 feet tall and has an 88-step circular iron stairway
to the observation deck. The views
from the top are spectacular! In 1998, the lighthouse became a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children (children under 6 are free) and students with ID, $9 for Seniors (62+), AAA travelers and locals with ID. The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum, 938 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida; tel.: 305-295-6616 Ext. 16.
LITTLE WHITE HOUSE
Of all the museums I visited, my favorite was The Harry S. Truman Little White House. It was built in 1890 as the first officer's quarters on the naval station. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was converted into a single family home and Thomas Edison lived here during World War I, while developing weapons for the Navy. It became very famous in 1946 when Harry Truman began visiting Key West for vacation and then returned 10 more times during his presidency (he spent a total of 175 days). He turned this place into a Little White House. Six presidents have visited here including John Kennedy; the last was Bill Clinton. Today itís mostly used as a museum
but the last significant role it had was in April, 2001, when Secretary of State Colin Powell led a week of international peace talks between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan here. I loved seeing the 1950s
and all the Christmas cards the White House has sent out each year. Entrance fee is $11. Little White House, 111 Front St.; tel.: 205-294-9911.
As you can imagine, Key West offers lots of food and restaurant options
for all budgets, including their most popular restaurants, Hard Rock Cafť, Jimmy Buffetís Margaritaville
and Cheeseburger In Paradise. However, my two favorite places to eat were: Blue Heaven
and Pisces. Blue Heaven
embodies Key Westís artsy, kick-back attitude. The backyard dining area is filled with colorful, hand-painted picnic tables and chickens
running around. I had the Jamaican Jerk Chicken plate with brown rice, black beans, vegetables and corn bread; it was good but their key lime pie
was awesome! Blue Heaven Restaurant, 729 Thomas St., Key West, FL; tel.: 305.296.8666.
used to be a French restaurant called Cafť Des Artistes. But in 2002, the chef decided to remodel the 1892 building Ė by putting up colorful paintings
including original signed colorized prints of Andy Warholís artwork and changing the name. Their signature dish for over 15 years (and award-winning, too!) is the Lobster Tango Mango
Ė itís delicious! Other tasty dishes are the Yellowtail Atocha, Raspberry Duck and Filet Mignon. Pisces, 1007 Simonton Street, Key West, FL; tel.: 305.294.7100.
Want to escape the Spring Break party atmosphere? Then head to Virgilioís Martini bar. Itís got great, live Cuban music and is filled mostly with locals all over the age of 30. The entrance is on a side street just off of Duval Street. Virgilioís, 524 Duval St, Key West, Fl; tel.: 305-296-8118.
WATER SPORTS/ JOHNNY JETSKI
In Key West, there are tons of water sport options. From snorkeling, diving and parasailing to windsurfing, boating and fishing. You name it! I
spent a couple hours going up to 65/mph
on a Sea Doo. You probably know it as a Jet Ski but please donít call these mini boats a Jet Ski! I grew up on a Jet Ski, which is how I got my nickname Johnny Jet (I used to be known as Johnny JetSki but when I upgraded my mode of transportation I dropped the "ski"). Island Water Sports & Sea Doo Rentals(245 Front Street, tel.: 305-296-1754) offer a variety of options. I went on a Sea Doo Island tour, which takes between 1-1/2 to 2 hours. You travel 26 miles, which takes you through both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Donít worry about getting hurt because theyíre really serious about safety and they require each Sea Doo to stay about 300 feet apart
from each other
(except when the group convenes at designated points along the way for a brief description of the area, by the tour guide). If you are in the back you might feel lonely. It costs $125 per person and if you want to add a passenger to your backseat, itís just $10 more. This activity is for people 18 and over. Be sure to bring your ID and credit card Ė youíre required to give a $300 deposit.
Hereís a 2-minute Johnny Jet Video
of my trip to Key West. It's also on YouTube, so it takes only a few seconds to load (though the quality is not as crisp). We also have all the Johnny Jet Videos ever made on their servers.
Next week we travel back to L.A. and then head to an international destination thatís famous for its weather and ruins.
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Note: This trip was sponsored by Ocean Properties.
Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Conch Train Tour
Key West Lighthouse
Little White House
Inside White House
Key Lime Pie
Lobster Mango Tango